Dalgona Coffee fights the COVID blues

Social media users are doing their best to fight the COVID blues and all the challenges physical distancing is causing. Many trends have surfaced during this period with a goal of popularizing creative hobbies that transform our homes into a more fun environment, and Dalgona coffee fits perfectly in this scenario.

Second only to “how to make bread” regarding the level of popularity in the food and beverage industry, the name Dalgona swept through TikTok and Instagram hashtags like a storm! It soon reached other popular websites, many of which competed on how to provide the best Dalgona coffee recipe. 

The audience appreciated the fun part of creating a cup full of delicious, fluffy coffee and social media channels were filled with photos and videos of the beverage. We will take a lucky guess and say you have also probably seen one—and wished you could try it.

The “whipped coffee” recipe 

”Isn’t that like sweet sugar candy?”- this comment, made by a user on a Youtube channel, sheds light on how the coffee got its popular name: if prepared properly, the color and consistency of the Dalgona coffee resemble a Korean honeycomb candy that goes by the same name.

If you have a mixer, the Dalgona coffee recipe will not take more than 5 minutes of your time, which is yet another reason why the trend picked up the pace so quickly— it is simple to make. There are only four ingredients:

  • Instant coffee
  • Hot water
  • Sugar
  • Milk

The first step includes mixing instant coffee, sugar, and hot water in 1:1:1 ratio— two tablespoons of each can yield two smaller servings in case you don’t want the coffee to be too strong. The mixer certainly makes the process a lot easier (the mixing takes about 5 minutes), but it’s worth mentioning the trendy version also includes mixing by hand around 400 times, either with a whisk or a spoon. Although this sounds like a good exercise, the end result is a mixture that usually isn’t as thick as it should be.

Once the whipped coffee gets its frothy texture, you can fill ¾ of the glass with cold milk and then add the prepared blend. For that last touch, top with some chocolate shavings, cocoa, or cinnamon, and your Dalgona coffee is ready—just take a straw, stir to mix all the ingredients, and enjoy your drink. You can even put it in a refrigerator where Dalgona can last up to 3 to 4 days or add ice to make it even more refreshing.

A well-known recipe or a new trend?

We mentioned earlier how some comments on a Youtube channel served as an inspiration for the name Dalgona—well, it was from this platform that the trend really took off in January 2020. The popular Korean TV clip featured the actor Jung Il Woo who tried the beverage in Macau, thus inspiring people all over the world to do the same. But, is this the place of origin of the Dalgona coffee, or is it somewhere else?

The popularity of Dalgona can certainly be attributed to Macau, however, the recipe has been long known in many other countries for years. Just to name a few, in Greece it’s called a frappe and it’s even considered to be an unofficial national drink. In India and Pakistan it’s called phenti hui coffee, hand-beaten coffee, and Indian cappuccino, while in Libya people like to prepare cappuccino Libyan style. 

But, let’s return once again to Macau to find the place that put Dalgona coffee on social media maps. 

The previously mentioned Youtube clip features a bar called Hon Kee Café, led by a former shipbuilder called Leong Kam Hon who opened it in the ‘90s. Due to a workplace-related accident, Leong decided to turn to the coffee business and open up a bar for shipyard workers. A fact that proved to be interesting for this particular story is that he also learned kung-fu in order to heal properly. This has helped him to prepare the Dalgona coffee later on because it is a drink that requires a fair amount of intensive exercise, if prepared manually. 

During the interview for CNN, Leong mentioned how he learned about this stirring technique from a foreign couple, but he didn’t know where they were from. He was intrigued by the coffee-making process which required stirring 400 times, hence the nickname 400x coffee, and due to his strength he managed to prepare the famous drink the actor Jung Il Woo popularized later on. There was also one other celebrity, the actor Chow Yun-Fat from the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, who was also impressed by the Dalgona coffee and the way it is made. Leong served the Dalgona to Chow in order to impress him and it worked—in 2004. this coffee drink became famous for a certain period of time, and it even went by the name Chow Yun-Fat coffee.  

Although later on Leong gave up on making the Dalgona coffee by hand, it was simply too exhausting to make, he still made an impact by being a part of one of the hottest coffee trends in 2020. This particular beverage became a landmark for his coffee bar. 

It suffices to say that Dalgona coffee gained its popularity due to its recipe—it is not just fun to make but it also creates a coffee drink which is easy on the eyes as well as delicious. 

Despite the social media fame, it may take a while until Dalgona reaches the fame that Cappuccino, Ristretto, Latte, or Flat White have in coffee shops around the world, it still holds a very special place in the warmth and intimacy of a home. Just like, for example, the ceremony of Ethiopian coffee, and Turkish coffee encourages friendship and hospitality, so the Dalgona coffee inspires us to find happiness in light of all the challenges quarantine has brought upon us.


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